The US has an abundance of national parks of varying shapes and sizes. From the grandeur of Colorado’s best national parks to the beauty of California’s stunning parks, they are home to hundreds (if not thousands) of plants and animals. Thus, nature-loving and adventure-seeking tourists have ample opportunity to witness these creatures thrive in their natural habitats when visiting national parks in the US. Whether one goes backcountry camping, hiking, or even kayaking, these US parks offer opportunities for viewing wildlife in its natural habitat!
10 Yosemite National Park
- Location: Sierra Nevada, California
Yosemite National Park is familiar with crowds of tourists wanting to visit its majesty and whimsy. This California park receives hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, providing an array of activities for many to enjoy its natural wonders. Take a guided tour of the park while riding a horse, bike through the trails, or get some bait to try some fishing at Yosemite. This famous national park is also home to over 165 species of birds, making it an ideal destination for avid birdwatchers.
9 Isle Royale National Park
- Location: Lake Superior, Michigan
Michigan’s Isle Royal National Park is nothing to scoff at; being an archipelago, it encompasses over 400 islands! With 36 campgrounds and approximately 165 miles (or 266 km) of trails, experienced backpackers can take a backcountry trip to Michigan’s massive park, exploring its many nooks and crannies. Otherwise, this natural area is also great for families, offering activities like scuba diving, fishing, paddling, and canoeing. Plus, it’s possible to spot local wildlife here, including red foxes, squirrels, bats, and certain reptiles.
|NOTE: Campers may spot foxes around the campground (and even during their hikes) in search of leftover food scraps. However, for any other animal in the park, keep a respectable distance and DO NOT feed them!|
8 Great Basin National Park
- Location: White Pine County, Nevada
Located 290 miles (or 470 km) away from Las Vegas, the Great Basin National Park provides a quieter hangout compared to the bright lights of The Strip. The park is known for the strenuous Wheeler Summit Trail and the Lehman Caves. However, nature-loving tourists can also find a plethora of wildlife at the Great Basin National Park. Hikers may spot species like the bighorn sheep, pygmy rabbit, water shrews, porcupines, and beavers.
7 Katmai National Park
- Location: King Salmon, Alaska
The most beautiful wildflowers are found in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. Thus, plant lovers who visit this Northern national park can find vascular plants like fireweeds, Kamchatka lilies, and Alaska’s Nootka lupine. However, despite its faunal diversity, tourists flock to Katmai for one reason: brown bears! With their population in the thousands (particularly about 2,200), backcountry campers and curious tourists love watching these cute—yet mighty—mammals at Katmai every year. Bear-watching usually occurs between June to September, so travelers wishing to see these beautiful beasts can book a bear-watching trip through a reputable local tour operator.
|NOTE: Can’t make the trip to Katmai National Park? No problem; the park has a “Bear Cam” on the park’s official website to watch these mighty mammals live and in action!|
6 Big Bend National Park
- Location: Texas
Sitting near the US-Mexican border, the Big Bend National Park lies far away from bustling cities. However, this desert park, located in Far West Texas, offers breathtaking views of the Chisos Mountains and its dramatic canyons. While backcountry camping or kayaking along the Rio Grande, visitors may spot local critters like jackrabbits, deer, bobcats, or the collared peccary.
|NOTE: One vital consideration is that Big Bend can get hot. Therefore, to enjoy the outdoor activities and wildlife at this Texas national park, it’s best to visit during the late fall to early spring. Furthermore, many activities and visitor centers may be closed in the summer months due to the incredibly hot temperatures.|
5 Rocky Mountain National Park
- Location: Northern Colorado
Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular attraction for wildlife viewing year-round. Whether visitors take a relaxing road trip through the Rocky Mountains or embark on its 350+ mile worth of hiking trails, the Rocky Mountain National Park has an abundance of flora and fauna. Regardless of how travelers explore this Colorado park, from a distance, they may spot some unique wildlife like the yellow-bellied marmot, bighorn sheep, black bears, coyotes, or the white-tailed ptarmigan.
4 Everglades National Park
- Location: Southern Florida
Covering over 1.5 million acres of wetland, this south Floridian national park is a must-visit for nature-loving travelers. Thus, the Everglades National Park offers visitors many opportunities to appreciate its wildlife. Go birdwatching in Homestead to see mangrove cuckoos, purple gallinules, or warblers in their natural habitat, or venture to the Everglades City entrance to witness bald eagles and wood storks. Alternatively, canoeing (or kayaking) is a fun way to explore the mangrove forests and marshes in the park while spotting local alligators, crocodiles, or manatees!
|NOTE: Due to its size, the Everglades National Park has three entrances in different cities: Shark Valley, Homestead, and Everglades City.|
3 Saguaro National Park
- Location: Southern Arizona
The Grand Canyon National Park is undoubtedly beautiful and a popular tourist attraction in Arizona. However, there’s something beautiful about the Saguaro National Park. Home of the giant saguaro cacti, visitors can take a scenic road trip around the park or hike along its trails with picnic areas. Plus, depending on the month of one’s visit, those exploring the park—especially during the warmer months—may spot some local amphibians and reptiles, including canyon treefrogs, leopard frogs, Gila monsters, tortoises, and rattlesnakes.
|Did You Know? The Saguaro National Park is home to a venomous lizard, the Gila monster. This sluggish reptile is the only venomous lizard in the US! However, this little creature is relatively harmless when left alone and undisturbed.|
2 Grand Teton National Park
- Location: Northwest Wyoming
Just a stone's throw away from the Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton features breathtaking views of the Teton Range, alongside countless lakes and rivers. Its expansive size and lush surroundings make it an ideal destination for passionate, experienced backcountry campers. Simultaneously, Grand Teton National Park is home to hundreds of animals and flora that can be easily spotted while driving (or camping), such as mule deer, bears, moose, elk, bison, and grizzly bears.
|NOTE: Roads near or along the Grand Teton National Park—specifically US Highway 26, 89, and 191—have speed limits of 45 mph at night. This is to ensure the safety of drivers, passengers, and animals that may cross the roads during nightfall. Thus, driving slowly, carefully, and at the speed limit is important for everyone’s safety!|
1 Yellowstone National Park
- Location: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Known as the world’s first national park (and in the US), Yellowstone National Park welcomes millions of nature-seeking tourists every year. Visit this national park by entering one of its five entrances to appreciate some of nature’s best sites (and wildlife)! This UNESCO World Heritage Site always dazzles visitors with its incredible views of the Grand Canyon and the world-famous Grand Prismatic Spring. Additionally, Yellowstone is rich in biodiversity, where visitors (at a respectable distance) can watch animals like buffalo, moose, grizzly bears, wolves, and bald eagles thrive in their natural habitat.